16 December 2020

Avoiding conflict during the festive season

| Neha Attre
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Festive decorations, presents and sparkling wine bottle and glasses.

Christmas can be a stressful time of year for some people, and it can be helpful to set aside a quiet space in the house to get away from all the commotion. Photo: File.

When most people think about Christmas celebrations, the image that comes to mind is spending time unwinding and relaxing in the company of family and friends, enjoying a meal together and giving and receiving gifts. However, for some it’s a stressful period where they will be forced into a social situation that may trigger conflict and dispute.

The most common issues leading into Christmas are caused by a lack of communication, which turns small issues into high-conflict situations, says Jess Wolski, director, alternative dispute resolution at Conflict Resolution Service (CRS).

She says family dispute enquiries at CRS rise each Christmas, and if you can plan in advance on ways to deal with a possible conflict situation, it can be avoided.

“The Christmas holidays offer a period for celebration from an otherwise tough year, and everyone wants time to relax so it might not be the ideal opportunity to try and resolve ongoing conflicts,” says Jess.

“Keep conversations light and positive – focus on the positives of 2020, and what everyone is looking forward to for 2021. Make sure you are prepared to be flexible around the Christmas period. It is always helpful if you have a strategy in place to deal with family conflict. For example, instead of reacting to a situation in an angry manner, take a moment and go for a walk instead.”

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It is common for parents to also feel added stress during the holiday period trying to organise something for everyone in the family to enjoy.

Hamish Guthrie, manager, CRS family support program, says giving your older children and teenagers choice about how they want to celebrate Christmas and spend time in the holiday period is key.

“Christmas can be a stressful time of the year and it can be helpful to set aside a quiet, non-Christmas space in the house to get away from all the commotion,” he says.

Hamish also urges people not to be too harsh on themselves.

“Be kind to yourself,” he says. “2020 has been a rough year and many of us probably haven’t achieved the goals we had set for ourselves. It’s important to show some self-compassion and ask yourself things such as, ‘What am I proud of myself for?’ and, ‘What have I learnt about myself this year?'”

Jess asks people to acknowledge that there can be a trigger point, and having a plan in place before going for a gathering will be helpful in avoiding any possible conflict. She feels that when people have strategies in place ahead of a situation, it puts them in a better position to handle stress.

“We have been isolated for a large portion of the year and have been unable to go out and see our friends and families,” she says. “Now that we have an opportunity to go out and meet others for Christmas, we must be aware that it is a happy and fun time of the year and an opportunity for celebration. So you need to be flexible and understand that everyone else has also had a tough year.”

Conflict Resolution Service would like to wish everyone a happy, safe and conflict-free Christmas and New Year period.

For more information, visit Conflict Resolution Service.

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